The year was 2009. An AN-32 plane of the Indian Air Force went missing in Arunachal Pradesh. There were 13 passengers onboard. Sounds familiar? Well, the spooky ‘action replay’ is a stark reminder of how Arunachal Pradesh has turned into a mysterious danger zone for the Indian Air Force. The result of the frantic search ended into a tragedy. The IAF lost that AN-32 aircraft, which crashed near a village in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, killing all the 13 defence personnel in the mishap. Body parts of crew-members were found strewn around the wreckage of the mangled aircraft, the Additional Superintendent of Police at the time, H Lanin, had told PTI over the telephone from Aalo, headquarters of the West Siang district.
Seven Indian Air Force officers, including two wing commanders, two squadron leaders and a flight lieutenant, and six Army personnel were on board that aircraft, which was heading from Mechuka to Mohanbari airbase in Assam.
Antonov AN-32 is a twin-engined military transport aircraft that can fly for up to four hours without refuelling. The IAF operates around 100 AN-32s, which were inducted in the early 1980s. The plane doesn’t have particularly great track records. According to an HT report, some of the AN-32s deployed by the Indian Air Force had undergone some changes in Ukraine. The upgrade was meant for better engine life. Others saw operational changes at air force’s Kanpur facility. India and Ukraine inked a $400-million contract in 2009 for upgrading IAF’s fleet of 100 AN-32 planes, the HT report said.
Ten years later, the mega search operation of the missing AN-32 has yielded no results so far. The IAF’s AN-32 plane with 13 onboard went missing from the Menchuka airfield of Arunachal Pradesh on Monday. Later, the IAF had also issued a statement denying reports that the wreckage of its AN-32 aircraft has been found.
Taking to Twitter, the IAF wrote, "Some reports of possible location of crash site were received, however, no wreckage has been sighted so far". The statement came amid several reports saying that the wreckage of the missing IAF AN-32 aircraft has been found near Payum village in the state. The aircraft lost contact with ground agencies after it took off from the Jorhat airbase in Assam around 12:25 pm this afternoon. Of the 13 passengers onboard, eight were crew while the remaining five were passengers.